Emma lives near the sea, where she enjoys beachcombing and playing with her dog, Nemo.
Sometimes the fair-skinned redhead thinks about “olden times,” imagining herself in a boat alongside a whaling vessel, persuading its harpooner not to harm cetaceans. At other moments, her thoughts have an environmental twist: “She liked to picture an ocean teeming with life, with no balloons or bottles spit to shore.” White’s serene watercolor-and–mixed-media compositions feature a muted palette made up primarily of greens, grays, blues, and black. Scenes of the past are rendered in mustard and brown. Stylized trees dot the seascape. The central action concerns a beached baby whale that Emma discovers during a walk. She caresses the creature, discerning its thoughts and intuiting its fears and gender. Implausibly, she doesn’t think about going for help but rather waits for the tide to come in. She then single-handedly pushes the whale into the current, sending it back to its mother. Unrealistic plot elements mix uncomfortably with the ecological messages, producing neither the playfulness of fantasy nor the accuracy of realism. The choppy prose—“At low tide, that’s when they found the best treasures”—does not enhance the package.
A well-intentioned effort from a debut author, this does not rise above the plethora of existing tales about whales—beached, biblical, or bellicose. (Picture book. 4-6)